Just five days before it was to go into effect, OSHA announced that the revised version of its bloodborne pathogens standard would take effect today, as originally scheduled.
The changes to OSHA''s standard had been subjected by President Bush to a 60-day review of all rulemaking done in the waning days of the Clinton administration.
The changes to the needlestick standard were a special case, however, because they were mandated by Congressional legislation that passed unanimously.
Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, supported the administration''s review process. But, he added, "The administration''s review caused questions and some confusion among the regulated public about whether the needlestick safety regulatory changes would be implemented on time."
The agency is planning a 90-day outreach and education effort before enforcing the new rules.
An OSHA spokesperson explained that the administration completed its review of the revisions to the needlestick standard and "concluded that the rule should go forward in line with the law that was passed by Congress."
The revisions clarify the need for employers to select safer needle devices as they become available and to involve employees in identifying and choosing the devices. The updated standard also requires employers to maintain a log of injuries from contaminated sharps.
Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., the former chair of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee asserted there is tremendous bipartisan support for the law mandating the revisions.
"More than 600,000 needlestick injuries occur annually," said Ballenger. "The law makes certain that safer medical devices will be used and the lives of health care workers will be made better for it."
by James Nash